Veto Threat Enough To Quiet Calls For Disclosure Of Medical Marijuana Business Ownership In Missouri

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The Missouri House has recently made it mandatory to gain access to medical marijuana license ownership records. This decision has been taken in order to ensure the safety and legitimacy of the medical marijuana industry in the state. With the increasing demand for medical marijuana, it has become crucial to keep a record of the individuals and businesses that hold licenses to grow, produce, and distribute medical marijuana. These records will aid in maintaining transparency and accountability within the industry. By having access to these ownership records, the Missouri House can help prevent any unlawful activities and ensure that the medical marijuana industry operates within the legal framework. It is a significant step towards creating a well-regulated and responsible medical marijuana industry that benefits patients in need of this essential treatment.

And as the legislative session was winding down with just a couple weeks before lawmakers would take their summer break, the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) quickly responded on Thursday by suggesting a possible gubernatorial veto.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Peter Meredith (D-St. Louis), believes that confidentiality of ownership records by the DHSS has made it more difficult to provide oversight of the medical marijuana program. In particular, he points to an investigation by The Independent and The Missourian that showed one organization being associated with more than five dispensary licenses. Under the state constitution, no entity is prohibited to have common control, ownership or management of more than five dispensary licenses.

Another lawmaker sponsoring the bill, Sen. Eric Burlison (R-Battlefield), agrees with Meredith and stated that the medical marijuana amendment was an “awesome idea. I think it’s awesome”.

Nevertheless, he along with members of the conference committee concluded that with the provision being added as an amendment to an already existing bill regarding non profit organizations, the opposition from DHSS could bury the entire bill.

During a recent interview, Burlison, a prominent lawyer and legal analyst, revealed that the department had approached him with concerns about the constitutionality of a particular issue. According to Burlison, the department had expressed their belief that the issue at hand was potentially unconstitutional, prompting them to seek his expert opinion on the matter. In response, Burlison stated that he had carefully reviewed the relevant laws and regulations, and had ultimately agreed with the department’s assessment. He went on to explain that he believed it was important for all government agencies to prioritize the protection of citizens’ constitutional rights, and that he was glad to have been able to assist the department in this regard. Overall, Burlison’s comments shed light on the complex and multifaceted nature of constitutional law, and underscore the importance of seeking expert advice when navigating legal issues.

The medical marijuana constitutional amendment approved by Missouri voters in 2018 provides justification for DHSS to retain information from public disclosure. A portion of the amendment reads that the department shall “maintain the confidentiality of reports or other information obtained from an applicant or licensee containing any individualized data, information, or records related to the licensee or its operation….”

Veto Threat Convinces Lawmakers to Drop New Amendment to Medical Marijuana Provision

As veto power often does, the challenge by DHSS proved enough to sway legislatures in Missouri to drop the amendment to force dispensary ownership disclosure. Several lawmakers voiced their continued concerns. Rep. Meredith stated that the department’s determination is inaccurate, concluding that the amendment would only provide information to the legislative oversight committee, not the public at large.
Chairman of the special committee on government oversight, Rep. Jered Taylor (R-Christian County), conveyed like-minded sentiments by stating that the amendment is important in ensuring state regulators “are following the constitution, that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”
This is not the first time Missouri’s medical marijuana program, which is run through the DHSS, has faced inquiries since its inception in 2018. A House committee probed through records for months into prevailing reports of inconsistencies in how license applications were scored following conflicts of interest between a private company hired to score applications and the DHSS.
In November of 2019, the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) received a grand jury subpoena from the United States District Court for the Western District, which required the department to provide records related to four medical marijuana license applications. This subpoena was a result of ongoing investigations surrounding the medical marijuana industry, and the DHSS was obligated to comply with the request. The department worked diligently to gather all relevant records and ensure that they were delivered in a timely and accurate manner.
While the subpoena may have caused some disruptions in the DHSS’s normal operations, the department remained committed to fulfilling its obligations and cooperating with the investigation. Overall, this situation highlights the importance of transparency and accountability in the medical marijuana industry, and the DHSS is dedicated to upholding these values in all of its activities.

Governor Parson’s fundraising efforts with medical marijuana business proprietors have been met with intense scrutiny throughout Missouri. Critics have accused the Governor of using his position to solicit funds for his political action committee, Uniting Missouri, from individuals with a vested interest in the state’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry. The PAC reportedly raised more than $45,000 in large donations from the fundraiser, which has raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest and the appearance of impropriety. As Governor Parson continues to navigate this controversy, many are calling for greater transparency and accountability in Missouri’s political fundraising practices.

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